Our Wellington

News | 13 April 2021

Meet our Park Rangers

As a rule, Katie doesn’t spend too much time on the phone at work. The 25-year-old is more likely to be out and about offering gardening advice, ensuring outdoor public events run smoothly, and chatting to community conservation volunteers.

Two Wellington park Rangers, Adam on the left and Katie sitting on the right of a white ranger ute, parked up at Mount Victoria with a view of Wellington harbour in background.

Katie is one of Wellington City Council’s five Park Rangers, caring for the city’s many parks, reserves, and open spaces.

But on one particular day, a phone call took centre stage. On the other end of the line was a woman who had become lost while cycling a trail.

“She called our Contact Centre and was put through to me,” says Katie.I talked to her until she was safely out. It was mostly for moral support – fortunately she ran into other cyclists who helped her – but I stayed on the phone until she was out of the woods to make sure she was okay.”

Katie, who uses they/them pronouns, says, “probably half the job is dealing with people”. And that’s the way they like it. 

Wellington City Council park Ranger, Katie, in her green ranger uniform t-shirt, leaning her right arm up against a tree trunk, with dappled green leaves behind.

“The people are the eyes and ears of our parks so it’s good to connect with the community. There are people from long-standing restoration groups, predator free champions, and those who tend community gardens. Some have been volunteering for a decade or more and you can really see the work they’ve achieved.” 

Originally from New Hampshire in the USA, Katie studied biology and public health. They love the diversity of their job and simply put, they think their adopted home city is “remarkable”. 

“Pōneke is really unique – we have some amazing intense forest that we can just walk to! 

“On any given day, I may get calls that take me out to five different parts of Wellington. Sometimes there’s emergencies and we have to go and handle a situation, like fallen trees or broken glass.

“Then there’s the more everyday stuff, like community groups asking for advice on weed control or on what plants are best for certain terrain.”

Many people know what’s in store for them when they walk through their office doors on any given day. But Adam, on the other hand, can’t easily predict where his job will take him. 

A portrait of Wellington City Council Park Ranger Adam, sitting with a cap, his green uniform t-shirt, and blurred green leaves behind him.

A father-of-two, the 39-year-old is Park Ranger for Wellington’s western suburbs.

“It’s very reactive in the job and it’s usually something different every day,” he explains. “We get jobs coming in from the public via the Contact Centre, or internally from Council staff.”

Adam says it’s a reasonably physical role, you must be apt at using power tools and machinery, and think quickly on your feet.

In one day, he is called to cordon off a small slip on the Skyline Walkway. Armed with caution tape, he gets the job done, chopping away overgrown branches obstructing the track on his way. 

Before leaving the track – and while demonstrating an impressive ability to handle a four-wheel-drive on seriously rocky terrain – he checks all signs are legible so people using the walkway by foot or bike can find their way. 

He’s then called by Mountains to Sea, one of the many community groups the Park Rangers support by helping them achieve their restoration and environmental goals. They’re after a tarp for work they are doing at Karori Cemetery. No worries! Adam says he’ll drop one off.

A bright blue sky with Wellington hills beyond, and a white ute parked on grass, with two park rangers, Adam on the left, Katie on the right, standing on either side of the work vehicle.

His next stop is to check out a reserve which is being used as a dumping ground.

“This probably isn’t the most glamorous part of the job, but it is important. We’re here to help ensure people can enjoy our parks safely.”

Adam, who studied conservation and marine biology, says the Park Rangers also make sure freedom campers follow the rules, remind dog walkers of guidelines, and issue permits, as well as checking health and safety plans, for events held in public parks.

“There’s definitely repetition but it’s never the same – that’s what I like about the job. You get to see some really cool parts of Wellington. We’re so lucky to have such a green city with an amazing track network.”